Sonia rattles Indira's sabre; Political battle over Herald

Sonia rattles Indira's sabre; Political battle over Herald

By: || Updated: 09 Dec 2015 08:17 AM
New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi invoked Indira Gandhi on a day she was to appear in court but received a breather, indicating a plan to politically fight the fraud case against her and son Rahul while her lawyers handled the legal nitty-gritty.
"I'm the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I'm not afraid of anything or anybody," the Congress president told reporters outside Parliament while her party MPs paralysed both Houses.

Rahul Gandhi meets flood-affected people at Mudichur in Chennai on Tuesday.

Delhi High Court had found prima facie evidence of "criminal intent" against Sonia, Rahul and five others accused of conspiring to fraudulently acquire the closed newspaper National Herald, and dismissed their plea challenging a trial court's summons.

The trial court, where their appearance was scheduled today, exempted the accused (all linked to the Congress) from personal appearance but asked them to be present on December 19. Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Singhvi had told the court that "every accused was willing and eager" to appear on a suitable date.

Rahul had left for flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu early in the morning, while one of the other accused, Sam Pitroda, is outside the country.

Congress senior Kapil Sibal and Singhvi later told a news conference that all the accused would appear on December 19 instead of approaching the Supreme Court to seek exemption from personal appearance.

Sonia's invocation of Indira came on a day the Congress appeared to be taking a leaf out of the former Prime Minister's book of fighting legal battles. Indira and son Sanjay had squared up to the Shah Commission inquiry on the excesses of the Emergency by orchestrating street protests.

It became obvious that the Congress planned to fight the case both legally and politically when its members disrupted Parliament, alleging "political vendetta" by the Narendra Modi government. Outside, the Youth Congress staged a massive street demonstration.

Congress members repeatedly clogged the well in either House, chanting " Tanashahi nahi chalegi (down with dictatorship)" and refusing to allow any business.

Speaking in Tamil Nadu, Rahul too alleged a vendetta, a charge that underscores that the complainant in the case is a BJP politician, Subramanian Swamy.

Swamy has alleged that the Gandhis, through the company Young India Limited they had floated, acquired the Herald - owned by Associated Journals Limited and boasting assets he claims are worth Rs 5,000 crore - by paying Rs 50 lakh from the party coffers.

"Well, I absolutely see a political vendetta," Rahul said. "This is the way the central government functions, the way they think."
Sonia, probably trying to convey her nonchalance at yesterday's court verdict, chose to sit in Parliament's Central Hall for an informal chat with fellow party MPs. She ordered a coffee and cheerfully discussed sundry issues, from the pollution in Delhi to next year's US presidential election.

But she refused to comment on the Herald case and its possible fallout on the goods and services tax bill.

In the House, Sonia sat silently, watching Congress members disrupt proceedings while ministers kept arguing that the government had no role in judicial proceedings and that Parliament should not be held to ransom over personal legal troubles.

Ministers Sadananda Gowda and Rajiv Pratap Rudy implored the Congress members to spell out what Parliament could do in the matter.

Congress strategists later said the government should be worried about Opposition cooperation in passing key bills, such as the GST bill, in this atmosphere.

Trinamul endorsed the Congress protest, Sudip Bandyopadhyay telling the Lok Sabha: "There is a feeling among Opposition parties that the government is vindictive. We are not protesting in the well but we are united. We want to see (that) Opposition leaders are not targeted."

Asked why Parliament should be disrupted over a court case, Sibal said: "There's a clear case of political vendetta. This has to be fought at two levels - political and legal. Many political parties are being targeted."

Former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram too had issued a statement a few days ago alleging a political vendetta against his son's business associates.

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